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Bystanders_criticalarticlereview - Journal at Personality...

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Journal at Personality and Social Psycholoty 1968, Vol. 10, No. 3, 215-221 GROUP INHIBITION OF BYSTANDER INTERVENTION IN EMERGENCIES l BIBB LATANfi 2 Columbia University AND JOHN M, DARLEY » New York University Male undergraduates found themselves in a smoke-filling room either alone, with 2 nonreacting others, or in groups of 3. As predicted, Ss were less likely to report the smoke when in the presence of passive others (10%) or in groups of 3 (38% of groups) than when alone (75%). This result seemed to have been mediated by the way 5s interpreted the ambiguous situation; seeing other people remain passive led Ss to decide the smoke was not dangerous. Emergencies, fortunately, are uncommon events. Although the average person may read about them in newspapers or watch fictional- ized versions on television, he probably will encounter fewer than half a dozen in his life- time. Unfortunately, when he does encounter one, he will have had little direct personal experience in dealing with it. And he must deal with it under conditions of urgency, un- certainty, stress, and fear. About all the indi- vidual has to guide him is the secondhand wisdom of the late movie, which is often as useful as "Be brave" or as applicable as "Quick, get lots of hot water and towels 1" Under the circumstances, it may seem sur- prising that anybody ever intervenes in an emergency in which he is not directly in- volved. Yet there is a strongly held cultural norm that individuals should act to relieve the distress of others. As the Old Parson puts it, "In this life of froth and bubble, two things stand like stone kindness in another's trouble, courage in your own." Given the con- flict between the norm to act and an indi- vidual's fears and uncertainties about getting involved, what factors will determine whether a bystander to an emergency will intervene? We have found (Barley & Latane", 1968) that the mere perception that other people are also witnessing the event will mark- edly decrease the likelihood that an indi- vidual will intervene in an emergency. Indi- thank Lee Ross and Keith Gerritz for their thoughtful efforts. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grants GS 1238 and GS 1239. The experiment was conducted at Columbia University. 2 Now at the Ohio State University. 8 Now at Princeton University. viduals heard a person undergoing a severe epileptic-like fit in another room. In one experimental condition, the subject thought that he was the only person who heard the emergency; in another condition, he thought four other persons were also aware of the seizure. Subjects alone with the victim were much more likely to intervene on his behalf, and, on the average, reacted in less than one-third the time required by subjects who thought there were other bystanders present.
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